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If you’re a lover of a classic red lip—or any statement lip for that matter—lip primer should become your new best friend. Curious about what lip primer actually does? Much like the primer we use (or forget to use) before smearing on our foundation, lip primer creates a smooth canvas for flawless coverage. And if chosen correctly, lip primer has the ability to nourish lips, prevent feathering, provide long-lasting lip color, and add dimension to your shade of choice. Brighter lips and fewer touchups? Count us in.
So whether you’re a lipstick aficionado or someone who dabbles in the art of a statement lip we’ve compiled the best drugstore lip primers, because everybody deserves a bright, bold, beautiful lip.
Keep reading for our favorite drugstore lip primers.
Best Overall: NYX Professional Makeup Lip Primer
Easy to apply
Unlike other primers that tend to be drying, this primer preps lips for long-lasting, enhanced lip color while also moisturizing chapped lips. Sweep it onto your lips before lipstick to prevent it from fading or feathering.
Key Ingredients: Polybutene, Octyldodecanol | Skin Type: All | Dosage: Apply all over lips prior to lip pencil, lipstick and gloss | Size: 0.1 oz | Cruelty Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Thin Lips: e.l.f. Cosmetics Lip Primer & Plumper
Primes and plumps
Could be more plumping
If you like a little plump in your pout, try e.l.f. Cosmetics' dual lip primer, which creates a base for smudge-proof lipstick while also plumping the lips thanks to cinnamon. While the lip plumper may "tingle," the results might make it worth the temporary sensation.
Key Ingredients: Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Talc | Skin Type: All | Dosage: Apply the lip primer to bare lips and blend out evenly with a lip brush then allow it to dry before applying lip color; Apply the lip plumper over the primer or lip color then allow for the tingling to subside before applying more product | Size: 0.06 oz | Cruelty Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Cinnamon is a spice that is made from the inner bark of trees. It's loaded with antioxidants that contribute to its anti-inflammatory properties, but when applied to the lips, it can act as a natural lip plumper.
Best With SPF: Rimmel London Lip Conditioning Balm
Gives up to 8 hours of moisture
Helps prevent chapping and chaffing
Can use alone or under lipstick
Infused with SPF 15 for UV protection
Rimmel's lip conditioner can be used alone or under lipstick, as it leaves lips soft, smooth and feeling conditioned. The perfect primer for a drying matte lippie, no? Oh, and it also has built-in SPF 15, which is a surefire way to win us over.
Key Ingredients: N/A | Skin Type: All | Dosage: Apply all over lips prior to lipstick or as a standalone | Size: 0.14 oz | Cruelty Free: No | Byrdie Clean: N/A
Best for Dry Lips: Aquaphor Healing Ointment
Prevents and soothes chafing, dryness, chapping, and blisters
Absorbs well into skin
Creates smooth skin
Can be greasy
While not technically a primer, Aquaphor is a multipurpose product that I personally use to prime my lips before applying lipstick. Simply dab a thin layer of the ointment onto the lip area, let soak in for a few minutes, and by the time you are ready to apply your lipstick, you'll have a smooth, moisturized pout.
Key Ingredients: Petrolatum 41% | Skin Type: All | Dosage: Dab a thin layer after washing hands | Size: 1.75-7 oz | Cruelty Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Clear: CoverGirl Outlast All-Day Topcoat
Can feel drying
This translucent top coat can be worn alone or paired with lipstick for added moisture. For those with especially dry lips, this hydration booster will leave your lips feeling soft and supple.
Key Ingredients: Sucrose Polycottonseedate, Ozokerite | Skin Type: All | Dosage: Apply all over lips prior to lip pencil, lipstick and gloss; Best when used with All-Day Colorcoat | Size: 0.22 oz | Cruelty Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Exfoliating: Maybelline New York Maybelline Master Glaze Lip Scrub Stick
Easy to use
Could scrub better
This mini scrub stick is a great way to prime for smoother lips ahead. Simply swipe this stick onto your lips, and then use your fingers to massage it in and get all the gunk off. You can use this with or without water, and then use a tissue to wipe it away.
Key Ingredients: Polybutene, Sucrose | Skin Type: All | Dosage: Apply all over lips prior to lip pencil, lipstick and gloss and rub it in with a finger to exfoliate | Size: 0.49 oz | Cruelty Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
What to Look for in a Lip Primer
Lipstick doesn’t sit nearly as well on chapped lips, which is why it’s important to look for a lip primer that contains hydrating ingredients to keep your lips plush and soft. Be on the lookout for ingredients like jojoba oil, shea butter, and hyaluronic acid.
Lip Plumping Benefits
Some lip primers have added benefits, like the ability to plump the lips. When possible, opt for natural plumping agents like cinnamon, or mustard sprout. Some may sting but don't worry, they're safe.
While most lip primers are translucent, you can also reach for a lip primer that's the same color as your concealer, which will help your lipstick look closer to its true hue by neutralizing your natural lip color. You can also opt for a lip liner with priming benefits; choose one the same shade or darker than your lipstick color.
What does lipstick primer do?
Tired of your lip color disappearing after thirty minutes of wear? Lipstick primer serves as a base for your lip color, allowing it to stay put and lay evenly on the lips while reducing feathering and creasing.
Is lipstick primer necessary?
No, but it does help prep and prime your lips by creating a smooth base that makes your lipstick look better and last longer.
Can you use lip balm instead?
Most lip primers on the market contain moisturizing ingredients, but if you’re only looking for hydration, a lip balm works just fine. If you're looking to improve the wear of your lipstick, however, you should stick with lip primer.
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Lubart R, Yariv I, Fixler D, Lipovsky A. Topical Hyaluronic Acid Facial Cream with New Micronized Molecule Technology Effectively Penetrates and Improves Facial Skin Quality: Results from In-vitro, Ex-vivo, and In-vivo (Open-label) Studies. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2019;12(10):39-44.
Boen M, Alhaddad M, Guiha I, Wu DP, Goldman MP. A single site, open label clinical trial, evaluating the duration, efficacy, and safety of a novel lip plumper. J Drugs Dermatol. 2018;17(9):999-1004.